young boy colours in with family

Fostering process

People can feel intimidated by the process of becoming a foster carer and worry that it will take a long time or be invasive. We want you to know that if you take the decision to foster we’re here to help you every step of the way.

If you have the space in your home and in your heart, you could change a child’s life through fostering. 

Fostering a child is a big commitment, but it’s a deeply rewarding experience. Foster carers provide a safe and supportive home for a child or children who can no longer live with their own family, giving them the fresh start they need to grow and thrive. 

The fostering application process

We understand that the decision to foster is an important one and not something that will happen overnight. There is lot to take into consideration and we want to re-assure you that we’ll offer all the support and training you need. 

On average it takes six months to become an approved foster carer - but we believe you can do it, and so should you. 

Making an enquiry  

Getting in touch to say you are considering fostering can be a big step to take, but there’s nothing to worry about. 

Making an enquiry is an opportunity for you to find out more about fostering and the application process, to help you decide if fostering is something that you want to do. 

If you’re interested in fostering with us, fill in our online enquiry form.  

You can also find your nearest fostering service on our Fostering Services near me page.  

Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 0277 280 or 0771 2402 312. Our phone lines are open from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. 

At this stage you are not making any commitments. A member of our team will call you back to talk you through the fostering process, answer any questions you may have and ask you a few questions about yourself and your motivation to foster. 

Initial visit

Once you have spoken to a member of our team and decided you want to continue, we will set up a meeting where one of our dedicated workers will visit you at your home.  

The initial visits usually involve a more detailed discussion about your circumstances, your motivations to foster, as well as your understanding of fostering and the needs of the children who need foster care. We will give you information about: 

The meeting is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the process of becoming an approved foster carer and what impact fostering could have on you and your family. 

If we and you and your family decide to continue with the process, you will need to complete a fostering application form and a consent form. This allows us to arrange several checks throughout the next stage of your assessment.  

If you are married or live with a partner, you will both need to be present at the home visit and continue to be involved throughout the assessment and training process together. 


Our assessment process is thorough because we want you to be fully prepared for the challenges and rewards that fostering brings.  

You will be assigned an experienced Barnardo’s social worker who will visit you regularly over several months throughout your assessment. They will: 

  • visit your home 

  • discuss the reasons why you would like to foster 

  • find out more about your family background 

  • spend time with you and your family 

  • discuss the type of child you could foster. 

During the assessment period, we will also carry out a number of checks including:  

  • police checks /enhanced criminal record checks 

  • medical checks 

  • financial checks 

  • professional and personal references.

The information collected will become part of your assessment report, written by your social worker. This is a comprehensive report which will be given to the Fostering Panel towards the end of your assessment process for them to make a recommendation about your suitability to foster. 

Fostering training 

During the assessment process, we run compulsory training for all our prospective foster carers which you will need to attend. The training is designed to help you: 

  • understand the commitment needed to foster 

  • learn about the needs of looked after children 

  • further develop the skills you'll need to foster

  • meet like-minded people who are preparing to foster or are currently fostering children. 

As well as parenting skills, the preparation course covers the special skills foster carers need to care for children who may have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect. The aim is to give you the skills you will need as a future foster carer. It will also give you opportunity to meet Barnardo’s staff and existing foster carers who have been through the process and are happy to share their journeys. 


The final stage of the assessment process is to present your assessment to the Fostering Panel. The information gathered by your social worker will be presented in an assessment report to the Panel.  

The Fostering Panel is made up of fostering and childcare professionals as well as members with personal experience of fostering. It is chaired independently of Barnardo’s. 

You will be invited to attend the Panel who will probably ask you some questions to help them make a recommendation. The questions will be based on the assessment they have read. 

The Panel will make a recommendation about your suitability to foster. Then they will submit it to the Agency Decision Maker who will consider it and decide whether to accept its recommendation. 

Matching you with the right child 

As soon as you are approved, your social worker will begin the process of matching you with the right child or children. Your social worker will continue to support you through every step of your fostering journey.  

If a child may be placed with you long term, the child’s social worker and the local authority Fostering Panel must also agree the placement to ensure the child will be with the right family. 

Fostering services near me

Our team of dedicated social workers will support you throughout the whole of your fostering journey. We have a number of dedicated fostering services around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:  

Support for foster carers 

As a Barnardo’s carer, you will be a valued member of our team and will benefit from: 

  • a thorough child and foster carer matching process 

  • 24 hour out-of-hours advice and support line service provided by Barnardo’s social workers 

  • generous financial support including a taxable income as well as a weekly allowance to help with the cost of looking after a child. 

  • support groups and family social events, held to enable carers to meet our team and other local carers 

  • a high level of professional training and development 

  • membership to the Fostering Network 

  • as a self-employed carer, the assurance that you are working for Barnardo’s, one of the leading children’s charities in the UK. 

Read more about the support we offer our foster carers

We also offer tailored support for LGBT+ foster carers. Barnardo’s is a member of New Family Social Network, the UK’s peer support network for adopters and foster carers who are LGBT+. When you adopt through Barnardo’s, you become a member of the New Family Social Network meaning you’ll have access to dedicated online forums and a wealth of events held across the country, some for all the family and some are for carers only. 

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Fostering a child

All kinds of children need loving foster carers, and we have a focus on matching children who may need extra care and support from a foster family.

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Frequently asked questions

There can be a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to be a foster parent, who needs foster care, and what it involves. We've compiled some of the most common questions we receive to bust some of those fostering myths.

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Become a foster carer

The first step towards joining the Barnardo's family is getting in touch. Complete our online form or find details about alternative contact methods here.